The Tennessee Board of Regents today appointed Dr. George J. Pimentel as the next president of Jackson State Community College, effective July 1. A U.S. Army infantry veteran, he has been vice president of academic affairs at Volunteer State Community College since 2014 and has 26 years of teaching and academic administrative experience.
The Board also appointed Brian A. Lapps Jr. as its next general counsel, serving the Board and the College System of Tennessee – the state’s 40 community and technical colleges governed by the Board of Regents. He has 27 years of experience as an attorney in public and private practice, including his current role as division counsel at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and previously as deputy general counsel at the University of Tennessee.
At the start of today’s specially called meeting, TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings led the Board in a moment of silence “for all who are suffering at this tragic time in our nation, as we mourn together and work to begin the healing process across this great state and this great country.”
In a short message, the chancellor said, “Our state and our nation have been through exceptionally difficult times right now…. We grieve as a nation for the latest tragic occurrences of injustice. On behalf of the Tennessee Board of Regents, we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families of those that have lost to these injustices that sadly plague our nation. We understand this is a time of deep emotion.
“Each day across the 40 colleges in the College System of Tennessee, we strive to create campus cultures that welcome everyone and treat all individuals with respect and dignity. Higher education is an opportunity for us to build a culture of even greater understanding, and we take that mission very seriously. Our engagement in the national network of Achieving the Dream is an example of our commitment to provide access and equity to all our students,” the chancellor said.
After the moment of silence, Tydings recommended approval of the two new leaders, following separate, months-long national searches that included Board members and, at Jackson State, representatives of various campus constituencies and the broader community on search advisory committees.
“Jackson State contributes greatly to the economic welfare of its community and West Tennessee. I know that Dr. Pimentel will continue the progress that has been made and will strive to keep the momentum going for student success,” the chancellor said.
Regent Barbara Prescott, who chaired the search advisory committee, said the pool of 82 applicants was extraordinary. “It’s always particularly gratifying when a leader from our own system truly emerges as the best candidate among an outstanding set of finalists and Dr. Pimentel clearly did that,” she said.
Board members voted unanimously to approve the appointments of Pimentel and Lapps.
As the sixth president in Jackson State’s 53 years of serving students, Pimentel will succeed Dr. Allana Hamilton, who was appointed the College System of Tennessee’s vice chancellor of academic affairs last fall, and Dr. Jeff Sisk, who has served as interim president and remains president of the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology in Jackson and Whiteville.
“I never imagined that I would become a college president when I began my career over 25 years ago, and I am honored and grateful to the Chancellor and the Board for trusting me with this important opportunity,” Pimentel said. “I’m looking forward to working with Jackson State faculty and staff as we continue to help our students overcome barriers to education and to unlock their potential.
“This is an unprecedented time. Students now more than ever need the opportunities that community college can provide through workforce development, collaborative partnerships and educational opportunities. Together, I believe we can make a real difference in people’s lives, and in their communities, and I am excited to engage with the Jackson State community and business leaders as we work together to make that happen. I can’t wait to get to campus.
“I also want to thank Dr. Jerry Faulkner and the Vol State faculty and staff for their support over the years, and for their unwavering commitment to student success. Vol State was my home for twenty years and it will always hold a special place in my heart,” Pimentel said.
He earned his Doctor of Arts in History, Educational Specialist, Master of Arts in History and Bachelor of Arts in History degrees at Middle Tennessee State University. He served in the Army from 1983 to 1987 and from 2001 to 2004, including deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He began his higher education career in 1994 as MTSU’s coordinator of continuing education, then as assistant to the dean of the university’s College of Liberal Arts. He was also an adjunct professor of history there.
Pimentel moved to Volunteer State in 2001 as a professor of history and continued teaching during his tenures as chair of the Department of History, Economics, Geography and Political Science from 2005 to 2009 and as director of the honors program from 2011 to 2014 when he was elevated to the college’s chief academic officer as vice president of academic affairs.
Jackson State is a comprehensive community college with its main campus in Jackson and three branch centers in Humboldt, Lexington and Savannah serving 14 West Tennessee counties. Fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), it is an Achieving the Dream college committed to student success. It enrolls nearly 5,000 credit students, including more than 1,200 dual-enrolled high school students.
Lapps, the next general counsel, earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence at the Vanderbilt University School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in History at the University of Notre Dame. At TBR, he will lead a staff of attorneys at the system office in Nashville.
"I’d like to thank the Board, Chancellor Tydings and the Search Committee for their confidence in me,” he said. “This is an exciting opportunity. I look forward to working with the Chancellor, her staff, the system office, and the campuses as we help make a difference for TBR students and the State of Tennessee.”
Lapps began his law career in 1993 at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis in Nashville, where he was a partner from 2001 to 2009 when he was appointed deputy general counsel of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He returned to Nashville in 2018 as division counsel at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His career includes extensive labor and employment, litigation and higher education law and management experience.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.